Cloud Atlas by Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, and Tom Tykwer
It's kind of amazing. In posting the trailer for this, I had to watch it from beginning to end. Normally, I just grab the link and hit pause, because I don't want to be bothered. But that only proves what Cloud Atlas can do, if you let it take hold. Oh, don't get me wrong. This is overly-long (though it didn't feel like it); sloppy (though tightly edited); and pretentiously silly and oddly profound. It's a movie I fell in love with in spite of its self. And it honestly just keeps getting better in my head (the emotional response I had to the trailer just now being proof). As far as plot goes, it would be nearly impossible to describe, but the line from Susan Sarandon in the trailer sums it up nicely:
Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present. And by each crime, and every kindness, we birth our future.
If there is a criticism, it is this: in casting such big name actors for several of the lead parts and in casting them in multiple story lines, it's easy to get distracted and caught up in playing "who are they now" with each story line. And there are some inconsistencies. Tom Hanks in the 1970s storyline - great. Tom Hanks in the early 1800s storyline - over-the-top and kinda goofy. The make-up in the post-Apocalyptic storyline - fantastic. The age make-up in the 1970s storyline - lame.
But, these end up being minor quibbles, because Cloud Atlas has something that is lacking in many Hollywood films (although Germany is the lead producing nation on this pic) - ambition. The Wachowski Siblings and Tykwer are aiming higher than most would ever attempt to in epic storytelling, philosophy, and they reach for a science fiction that does what science fiction should do: tell us about who we are as a species today.
It's all a little too self-serious and the framing device should be excised completely (at 2 hours and 43 minutes, they could stand to chop a bit and this does nothing for the story), but I'll be damned if Cloud Atlas isn't just a great old-fashioned let's go to the movies good time.
A Liar's Autobiography by Bill Jones, Jeff Simpson, and Bill Timlett
Sadly, this trio of directors didn't fare as well as the Wachowskis + Tykwer. A Liar's Autobiography is about the life of Graham Chapman from Monty Python's Flying Circus. It begins gangbusters, then keeps shifting focus so randomly as to have been based on Chapman's book torn apart and the pages randomly picked up off the floor. The animation is top notch - but it's unnecessarily in 3D (I'm getting really sick of 3D at this point) and the most moving part is simply a recording of John Cleese's eulogy for Chapman upon his passing in 1989. Good for Freudians (Cameron Diaz makes a quick guest appearance as Freud); but a bit of a slog - even for those of us where are Python fans.
Imogene by Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini
Kristin Wiig plays a washed-up playwright whose last grasp of self-esteem is in the hands of her handsome boyfriend. When he dumps her and she loses her job, she stages a fake suicide attempt to get her back. And when that goes wrong, she is placed in a 72-hour psych hold - with her mother in New Jersey. With Annette Bening as her mother, Matt Dillon as her mother's boyfriend and Glee star Darren Criss as a boarder at her mother's home, the cast is largely game. It's an enjoyable movie, but it does take a few twists and turns that are difficult to believe.
Spring Breakers by Harmony Korine
Don't let the names - Disney stars Selena Gomez and Vannesa Hudges & James Franco - make you think for one second this isn't a Harmony Korine film. In fact, despite the names, it may be the most Korine-y of Harmony Korine's films - in that it plays like Harmony Korine doing a parody of what it would be like if a studio wanted Harmony Korine to make a spring break movie. One person described it as Girls Gone Wild with machine guns. It's a little bigger than that (if you want to look for it), but that's pretty much it. Boobs, machine guns, and James Franco with a platinum grill delivering (even for him) the strangest performance of his career so far. The scene in which he's cataloging his possessions to impress the girls is an utter riot and the repetitions of him saying "Spring break forever" are funny as hell (the first six times). I'm not sure exactly what it all amounts to, but whatever it amounts to, it's undeniably the most original things I've seen so far.